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Master of Fine Arts Program


Please see the “Graduate Admissions” section of this site.

About The Dance M.F.A.

The University of Washington Department of Dance offers a Master of Fine Arts degree that prepares experienced dance artists for entry into the academic setting. The two-year program is an intensive period, during which M.F.A. candidates are supported in: development of an academic dimension to their creative work in dance, deepening their creative practice, and translation of embodied knowledge into a reflective personal pedagogy and informed teaching practice. M.F.A. candidates receive a tuition waiver and earn a monthly stipend in exchange for working as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Dance.

Candidates with at least eight years of professional experience in any dance genre are invited to apply. Historically, graduate students have primarily come from modern, contemporary, and ballet backgrounds; however, the Department has been actively engaged in curricular and staffing changes to de-center Western concert dance and develop a more robust Afro-diasporic and social dance focus. (See Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion). 

Development of each student's teaching is supported through coursework, mentorship, and practical experience teaching. Graduate students, who teach two technique courses per quarter, become a key part of our faculty, and have opportunities to develop courses in their areas of expertise. 

Dance faculty work with M.F.A. candidates to develop an individualized course of study. Seminars taken in the first year provide the opportunity to investigate the relationship of dance to higher education, learn the nuts and bolts of dance administration, explore individual and collaborative art-making, and engage in rigorous scholarship that contributes new areas of knowledge to the field of dance studies. 

Graduate students also perform annually with The Chamber Dance Company (CDC), the resident modern dance company of the University of Washington. CDC provides an opportunity to work with their peers in the reconstruction and restaging of historic and contemporary dances.

Interdisciplinary study is a foundation of the M.F.A. curriculum. Graduate students complete courses in other disciplines that support the development and teaching of their Masters Project—an upper division academic course. As a leading research institution, the University of Washington provides a fertile environment for inquiry into many dance–related areas including anatomy, aesthetics, anthropology, history/criticism and digital technology.

Since the inception of the degree in 1990, graduates have achieved immense success in the fields of education, performance, choreography, administration and production. Graduates have been recipients of prestigious grants and awards including a National Dance Project Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Alumni have secured positions at numerous state and public institutions of higher learning, including: University of Utah, Sonoma State University, Bucknell College, Bates College, University of South Florida, Texas Women’s University, George Mason University, Bryn Mawr, Cornish College for the Arts, University of Nebraska, University of Washington, University of Western Washington, Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, the Northwest School and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

The UW Department of Dance is committed to making a performer’s transition into university teaching a rich and supportive experience.

We encourage a conversation with the Graduate Advisor before applying.

“The University of Washington’s MFA program in dance provided me an incredibly stimulating and inspiring two years of educational investment in myself and my learning. Its comprehensive yet individualized plan of study directly addressed broad and substantial aspects of higher education. Not only was I challenged as an educator, artist, and researcher during my tenure, but I was also supported and mentored to define my own voice and purpose in the field. I emerged from UW with a degree and a confidence that has solidly supported my current career in the domains of dance and education. I can’t say emphatically enough how exceptional this graduate program is.”

-Natalie Desch, class of 2013, Associate Professor, University of Utah

“My time in the UW Dance MFA program was illuminating and transformative. I recommend it to all professional dancers looking to further their education. The degree helped me get a tenure track job, and more importantly, the education continues to inform my creative work, my world view, and my understanding of self/community.” 

-Catherine Cabeen, class of 2009, dancer, choreographer, Associate Professor of Dance at Marymount Manhattan College, teaching artist for the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Company


During the two-year program, a student will be expected to enroll full-time (minimum of 10 credits/quarter). A student must complete at least 72 credits, 31 of which are in required courses, in order to earn the degree.

Required Coursework For All M.F.A. Candidates:

DANCE 510 Chamber Dance Production (12 credits)

Study of dance production in a university environment. Includes rehearsal and performance of Chamber Dance Company repertoire. 

DANCE 515 Dance Research Methods (3 credits)

Seminar in problem identification and definition, theory development and research design. Practice in writing for dance journals. 

DANCE 516 Dance Research Methods (3 credits)

Focuses on designing an original research project, conducting research, and writing a scholarly paper suitable for publication in a juried journal or conference presentation. 

DANCE 519 Influential Learning Theories in Dance Practice (2 credits)

Readings, discussion, observation, and writing relating to influential learning theories as they pertain to dance.

DANCE 520 Dance in Higher Education (3 credits)

Discussion, writing and observation of dance in higher education. Readings include Dewey, H'Doubler, Whitehead, Van Dyke, Fichter. 

DANCE 521 Dance Administration (3 credits)

Readings and discussions relating to dance administration in the university setting. Topics include: curricular development, academic advising, personnel issues, faculty searches and issues related to dance as a performing art within the university structure. 

DANCE 530 Collaborative Composition (3 credits)

A lab in collaborative art-making between choreographers and graduate students from other arts programs on campus. 

DANCE 531 MFA Concert Production (6 credits)

Graduate students create original choreography in collaboration with undergraduate dance students, culminating in a public performance in the annual MFA Concert. 

DANCE 595 Master's Project (3 credits)

Development and teaching of an academic course in area of specialization. Course proposals are developed in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and submitted to the full faculty for approval at the end of the first year. The area of specialization must be supported with a minimum of 24 credits in related elective coursework.